I'm finally back. I was a bit ambitious to think that I'd be able to get right back to posting on Wednesday, the day after we returned from the US. I was essentially immobilized by exhaustion and jet lag our first day home (I cannot sleep sitting up on airplanes), and just as I was beginning to feel a burst of energy Thursday morning, Leif got sick, and I spent the tending to him. Today is the first day in weeks I've spent sitting down at a computer, thinking, doing my work, and tending to my many online errands. It feels good to get back to normal.
While initially I was disappointed yesterday not to get a chance to get back to work with Leif home sick, within minutes my disappointment vanished and I settled into a very comfortable, lovely day with my not-so-little baby. So often I find myself busy trying to get things done when the kids are home - making breakfast/lunch/dinner, cleaning up toys, finishing small work tasks, (ahem, checking my blog stats), and everything else a parent has to do.
But yesterday, knowing how difficult--and deeply unsatisfying--it is to try to sneak in moments of work while being the sole caretaker of a little human, I just gave up on getting anything else done and focused on being present with Leif. I alternated between actively playing with him and sitting on the couch reading a book while he played around me. Normally, if I'm in the study trying to get something done while the kids are home, they interrupt me every 2-3 minutes. But yesterday, as I sat on the couch reading, Leif rarely interrupted me. I was right there in the room with him even though I was doing something else, but he seemed to know that ultimately he had my full attention, that I would lay my book down without hesitation to respond to him. I think that he felt how present I was with him, and because of that, he was able to play on his own with confidence for long stretches.
Of course, he could play on his own happily also because he didn't have a big brother there to follow around, or fight for toys or compete for attention with. He got to use every toy he wanted in exactly the way he wanted for exactly how long he wanted--something which more or less never happens when August is home (of course, it goes both ways, with Leif often harassing and taking toys from August when he's playing).
As the day went on, I watched him with ever more curiosity and admiration. He'd load up all the toys in the cart, then wheel it around the living room before finding the perfect place to take out every single item, lining them up carefully on the couch or the bookshelf. After he'd unloaded everything, he'd stop to play cars or have a conversation with me, offer me (play) food, and then he'd load everything into the cart again and take it somewhere else. He alternated between this load-and-unload the cart game and playing with his new SmartMax vehicles set for hours.
I found it such a joy just to observe him, watching him work out how to build the cars or line up the toys, figuring out the language to describe his actions, and bouncing happily around the room. It was also a luxury to have this kind of time together, and for me to give myself permission to get absolutely nothing done for the day. Nothing "productive", that is, nothing that I could point to having accomplished, nothing I could post here for my dear readers to enjoy; what I got instead was a deeply fulfilling day wholly immersed in the presence of my beautiful little boy. Which is, of course, the most productive and important way to spend a day anyway.
Do you ever get one-on-one time with your kids? Do you always feel pressured to get other things done when you're with them? Do you have any secrets or tips to getting and enjoying this kind of unburdened time with your kids? Sometimes it's unavoidable that we have to do other things when we're with kids, like make dinner or finish an important work task, but it's also important to clear those things away and have unfettered time with them.
Looking for more on parenting? Also check out my post for Radical Mother and Kissing Boo-Boos.
All photos by me.
Love it. I try as much as possible to be present with S, to enjoy each moment and to relish in it...mostly because I know it's fleeting. He's already 4 months (!?!?!?!?!) and has changed so much already...it is an incredible luxury to be able to be with him; so far, I've been able to get most of my work done while he naps. I also spend time with my in-laws, and they enjoy and play with him while I work...but am still there to nurse/change/adore as needed. It's an incredible balance, that I thank my lucky stars for every day.
It's wonderful that you have extended family around to help!
I've always felt like what they don't tell you is that even if you do your best to savor every moment (at least the good ones), they still go by so quickly. You can be right there in the moment with them almost all the time, but still it slips away....
I can really relate to how wonderful it is to give your full attention to your child, and how frustrating it is to try to do tasks all day, and for me, being unable to complete them. When I set myself up in this way I lose out on spending time with my baby AND on getting anything done. Yet I find it so difficult to focus - not to turn on talk radio or FaceTime someone or go do an activity, which can be nice but often does not involve the same level of attention to my child. Thanks for this reminder of how important that is.